Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

November 30, 2010

Band-aid Solutions: Peel & Stick Tile

What to do when staring at some aspect of your "home sweet home" day in and day out drives you to distraction, but a renovation is a distant goal?  Band-aid solutions (Also a good tip for renters)! 

Remember this tile? 


It is now a distant memory, but it and I coexisted for a year before it met its maker.  But that doesn’t mean I had to look at it.  I covered it with turquoise peel and stick “tiles” from Home Depot.  These faux tiles hid the ghastly “accent” tile previously owners had lovingly installed so I wasn’t tempted to sledgehammer the whole room just to eradicate the fruity-ness. 

See more "before" shots hereAnd more pictures of the kitchen now, here.
Can you spot the turquoise squares?


Ahhhh, new tile.
What tricks have you used to temporarily hide the uglies before a reno?

Mainfloor Half Bath: "In Progress"

The main floor half bath is another work in progress, but definitely an improvement!  It is much easier to begin to transform a space in which everything is replaced (see the progress in the guest room half bath here.  Deciding to keep the perfectly functioning toilet and the mint condition vanity (read about my reasoning for trying to salvage here. made creating a beautiful space more challenging.  So I welcome suggestions . . .


This light fixture needed a photograph of its own

First step: remove wallpaper in a fit of near-hysteria.  I just wanted it gone, gone, gone.  Using a spray-on wallpaper remover helped, but when I ran out and refilled the bottle with water it seemed to work just as effectively.  Working slowly, drenching the paper then peeling like crazy seemed to be the best approach. 

It is more effective if you rip with dramatic gusto

Second step: the vanity, walls and even the metal pipe cover were painted a soft, taupe grey.  The white used elsewhere would have made the bone coloured toilet stand-out and I wanted it to blend. 

Third step: details.  We replaced the light fixture with one that matches the stairwell and upstairs hallway.  A new mirror, (refurbished) cabinet pulls and new hinges, plus a print by my mom were added.  But it still looked worn out.

Looking better(ish) . . .

Fourth step: bigger stuff.  We replaced the countertop with the same counter used in the kitchen and added a square-ish vessel sink (round sinks looked way too mod for the space) and a new black faucet and drain (which were ridiculously hard to find) and some colourful hand towels.

I spray painted the handles from the guest room half bath black and installed them here!

This bathroom isn’t anything super special (yet), but it is definitely better!  I still need to change the towel bar, paint the radiator (is that possible?) and add some more artwork/accessories.  Any suggestions for a great towel bar?
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November 28, 2010

Collecting: McCoy Pottery

I heart McCoy Pottery, but I’m picky about the pieces I collect.  I’m trying to collect pieces that are green, turquoise, pink or white.  I want my collection to eventually have some visual punch, like Martha Stewart’s: 
Martha Stewart's McCoy Collection at her East Hampton Home
I found this picture of Martha Stewart's amazing collection here.

Complicating my collecting is the fact that I never purchase online.  I like what I buy to have been found in my city, or on a trip.  I’m a sucker for sentiment!  Happily, I found a new piece at a local antique shop just a few days ago.  Here are a couple pics of some of my collection: 

The low turquoise dish isn't McCoy, but I love it still

This one is the only one actually home to a plant. 

Hello new addition!
The colour combo of my newest planter reminds me of this kitchen featured recently on Apartment Therapy.  I love, love, love this kitchen.  So gorgeous.

Thanks, Apartment Therapy, for this gorgeous inspiration!
I found this picture from Apartment Therapy here.
McCoy Pottery is really varied.  There are different kinds of pieces (cookware, bowls, vases, lamps) and many, many different styles.  I love the mid-century cool "Harmony" line featured on this blog.

Picture from "Just a Modern Guy" blog
For more info, there are plenty of books on collecting McCoy and here is a great website.

 Anyone else collect McCoy Pottery or have a different kind of pottery collection?
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November 27, 2010

DIY Re-Varnished Cabinet Fronts

This project makes a subtle but important difference.  Here’s the back-story and the how-to:

We have sent a lot of renovation detritus to the landfill.  None of what we tore out was suitable for the Habitat for Humanity Restore (or anyone else).  Literal truckloads of carpet and baseboards were hauled away, plus two toilets, two vanities, two bathroom sinks, two bathroom faucets, a kitchen sink, and other bits and bobs.  So we have been trying really hard to salvage what we can.  One thing we decided to keep was our kitchen cabinetry.
But our cabinets needed a lot of work.  Although keeping cabinetry seems to be a new trend in renovating (especially when budget is an issue) a lot of folks paint their cabinets as a solution.  Well, painting ours weren’t an option.  With a husband who grew up in a wood working studio, getting him to part with natural wood can be difficult.  And eventually I grew to love the grain of our cabinetry too. 
But what to do when they looked like this?
"Before" - Yikes.

Not our taste, but I sold these handles at a garage sale!

We headed to our local Home Hardware store for advice and while there, also garnered some advice from a professional in the field.  My father-in-law (a woodworker) recommended a chemical stripper because a belt sander might remove too much veneer.  So, with everyone's advice in mind, we made a list:

Chemical stripper
Water based varnish (semi-gloss)
Inexpensive brush for stripping
Better brush for varnish application
Rubber gloves (the stripper ate right through the first pair)
Sandpaper (80 & 180 or 200)
Paint scraper (metal, not plastic)
Protective eye wear
How to re-varnish cabinet fronts:
  • Take down cabinet fronts and remove hardware
  • Put on gloves and protective eyewear (stripper will sting!)
  • Decant stripper into a glass or metal container for ease of use
  • Apply chemical stripper with a cheap brush
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for wait time
  • Using metal scraper, scrape with the grain, removing finish
  • Reapply stripper as required until finish is removed
  • Use a rag to wipe off excess stripper
  • Lightly sand areas with 80 grit that didn’t get reached by stripper
  • Use a clean rag to wipe off an dust/debris
  • You could stain cabinet fronts at this point
  • Apply a light coat of varnish with a good brush (don’t want to lose bristles)
  • Use slow, smooth strokes in the direction of the grain
  • When dry (follow manufacturer’s instructions) lightly sand with 180 or 200 grit sandpaper
  • Wipe clean with dry cloth
  • Apply second thin coat of varnish, try to smooth out any bubbles
Some Tips:  Water based varnish was recommended by a professional in the field because it easy to clean and easier to breathe, but still try to do this in a well-ventilated & well-lit area.  Do all of the removal and then all of the varnishing at the same time.  And don't forget the cabinet boxes, for a unified look.  There are many finishes available—a bit of gloss/sheen will reflect light and camouflage small flaws.

Very importantA fan may seem like a good idea to speed up the drying process, but you might just blow dust onto your tacky cabinet fronts.  Just a hint. 

After the re-varnishing and onto the tiling.  But look at those cabinets gleam!

"After" - New hinges and handles helped spiffy up the cabinets

See more "after" shots here.
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November 26, 2010

DIY Hardwood Floors

I hate carpet.  When we purchased the townhouse, the first thing we did was run to Home Depot to order flooring.  We had to wait about 6 weeks, so if you are planning this project, plan ahead and budget wisely.  Even installing it ourselves, the flooring took a huge chunk of our budget: just over $4000 when the dust settled.  My husband and father-in-law installed approximately 600 square feet (plus a staircase) of hardwood flooring in a few days, working all day long.  Luckily, they had both installed flooring previously at my sister-in-law’s house so they had some experience with flooring.  There are plenty of resources and books highlighting the nitty-gritty of hardwood flooring, so we won’t provide step-by-step instructions (unless you want them!), but here are our progress pictures (to give you an idea of what is in store for you) followed by some tips we had to figure out on our own.

Hallway: "Before" (Note the ripple)

Stairs: "Before"

Carpet is gone! Removing nails from subfloor . . .
My grandpa helping remove staples too! (This was a big job)

Hello subfloor! Where did your carpet go?

Started to feel panic set in at this point. 
As in, "What have we done?!?!? We'll never get Humpty Dumpty back together again."


We used maple plywood for the stair risers.  First we applied a few coats of varnish.

Starting to look good . . .

Ahhh . . . hardwood floors!
Ignore the ugly chair.  Soon we will part ways.  Soon.


Purchasing/Ordering your Flooring:
  • Have your calculations done before you even begin looking at flooring and ask the salesperson to double check your figures—don’t rely on that person to do all the math for you
  • If you haven’t done flooring before, consider 15% extra (as opposed to 10%) to account for mistakes cutting.  You don’t want to wait 6 weeks to finish your project
  • When you order your wood, ask for a copy of the guarantee and the instructions.  We didn’t ask for it ahead of time and were scrambling last minute for the proper underlay we didn’t know we needed and wasted an entire day
  • Ask about the return policy, you might have to pay a restocking fee for returning unopened boxes
  • Double check your entire order before taking your boxes of hardwood home—we almost left the store with 12 fewer boxes than we ordered!
Getting Started:
  • Let your neighbors know—this is LOUD work!  Apologize in advance, especially if you are new to the neighborhood
  • Make sure you allow the wood to acclimatize as per the manufacturer’s instructions (that’s why it is wise to get the instructions ahead of time so you can plan your schedule accordingly)
  • Don’t stack in one GIANT pile, it might be too much weight for the subfloor (depending on the size of your project) so spread the boxes in a number of rooms if possible
  • Allow for some “wiggle” room in your schedule—it took an entire day to pick up the flooring, rent the tools, find the underlay, etc., and we didn’t account for this time in our schedule
  • Make sure the subfloor is clean, level, and free of nails and staples
  • Start doing some measuring and figuring before you cut a single piece—plan the project: where to start, trouble areas, etc.
  • My husband and father-in-law started at the stairs (which were also stripped of carpet in exchange for hardwood) because the house isn’t square and they didn’t want the top of the stairs to showcase the crookedness
  • I asked them to do the guestroom last—in case we ran out of flooring, it would be an underused room that stayed unfinished not our bedroom or the office
Installing the Flooring:
  • Lay your hardwood across the joists—I wanted it the other direction, but it isn’t as structurally sound going in the same direction as the joists
  • If you have more than one person working, rent two floor nailers for the days that you are working on a simpler, wide open space with few cuts—it will really speed up the process
  • You may need to trim door frames and doors, depending on the thickness of the previous flooring
  • Look at each piece of wood carefully and pull from a number of different boxes at a time, so you don’t end up with a darker room and light room and some random piece in the middle
  • Don’t rush—it can be very difficult to fix mistakes once the planks are installed
Do you have any tips of your own??
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November 25, 2010

Inspiration: Best Holiday Lights Ever!

Why can’t I be this clever?  This house lives in my parents’ neighborhood and the home owners have done some variation of the “happy house” holiday lights for as long as I can remember.  I love it!

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November 23, 2010

Inspiration: Hotel Bathroom

Maybe we just don’t stay in fancy enough hotels when we travel because I am rarely inspired by a hotel bathroom.  Surprisingly, during a recent trip to Boston, MA I discovered that our room at the Radisson Hotel had such a lovely bathroom!  I took a few pictures for ogling purposes.  It has the crisp, all white look I love but it was done with a mix of classic and super modern styles in various shades and textures.  The picture doesn't do the countertop justice--I think it was Corian and it had an amazing luminescent quality.  Plus, the designers really splurged on fixtures (a luxury we couldn’t afford) and it made all the difference.  The tub (not pictured) was a soaker tub and had a gorgeous showerhead (you can kinda see it in the mirror).  The only downfall was that the floor tiles were SUPER slick which was especially dangerous in such a teeny tiny bathroom.  Am I the only one that has this issue?  It seems a lot of my design preferences are based on my falling down a lot or dropping things . . .  

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